Fr. Mike’s Homily for Wednesday of the 21st week in Ordinary Time Cycle I (1)

Fr. Mike’s Homily for Wednesday of the 21st week in Ordinary Time Cycle I

Theme: Clean your heart

By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches

 

Homily for Wednesday August 25 2021Mt 23:27-32

Jesus said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; now fill up what your ancestors measured out!”

Today we hear the sixth and seventh ‘woes’ hurled by Jesus against the scribes and Pharisees. In the sixth ‘woe’, Jesus gives a general description of their hypocritical behavior: “You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. On the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.”

They are too careful about their outward appearance and behavior, not because they are truly good, but because they like to be admired and thereby lift their pride and pursue their selfish agenda. In truth, they aim to deceive the people.

Jesus uses the image of ‘whitewashed tombs’. They look beautiful and clean on the outside, but “inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.” One reason the tombs were whitewashed is to make them more visible, especially in the dark. According to the law, contact with a dead body or even just stepping unwittingly on a tomb causes ritual impurity.

This image aptly describes the scribes and Pharisees. On the outside, they project an image of sanctity and moral integrity, but deep in their hearts, they are filled with pride, selfishness and greed. Jesus warns the people not to come near these ‘whitewashed tombs’ for they defile, not only ritually, but also spiritually. They can effectively contaminate those who come near with the poison of their hypocrisy, greed and pride.

And the most serious indictment of all is the seventh ‘woe’: “You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous.”

The Pharisees believe that in giving honor to the prophets by building the tombs and memorials for them, they are more righteous than their ancestors who killed them. They did not realize that they are incriminating themselves by this claim: they are descendants of these murderous ancestors. And so they, too, deserve the punishment due to them. Then, Jesus tells them, “Now fill up what your ancestors measured out!” In the NIV translation, it says, “Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!” In fact, at this point in time, they are already planning to kill Jesus. He tells them to go ahead and complete the murdering of the prophets, referring to what is going to happen to himself.

It should be noted that Jesus hurled these ‘Seven Woes’ against the scribes and Pharisees, not out of a vengeful spirit or any desire to destroy their image before the people, and thereby besmirch and discredit the office they hold. Rather, Jesus is just trying to protect the people from the bad influence of these leaders. That is why Jesus gives the serious warning: “Look out, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Mt 16:6). Ultimately, the motivation behind these scorching words of Jesus is love. He wants to warn all His followers in order not to end up in the terrible fate that awaits the scribes and Pharisees: “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how can you flee from the judgment of Gehenna?” (Lk 23:33).

By all means, let us avoid hypocrisy. We may be able to fool others by presenting a good and holy exterior, but we can never fool God. After all, as the famous saying goes, “going to church does not make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.” Let us clean our hearts and get rid of all sins and selfishness. Then, our outside appearance will radiate the goodness inside us, and we become truly pleasing in the eyes of God, and a beautiful inspiration for others.

Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches

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